How to be a NaNoWriMo Rebel

nano_poster_2014November marks the beginning of another National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo). This is my fourth year taking up the challenge of writing 50,000 words in 30 days along with thousands of other writers around the world. But this year, I’m doing something a little different.

I’m being a NaNo rebel.

A NaNo rebel is someone who doesn’t follow the NaNoWriMo guidelines in some way. Whether it’s continuing a work in progress instead of starting something new or writing a work that isn’t a novel, there are many ways to be a rebel. This year, I’m attempting to write 50,000 words worth of personal essays instead of a novel. It’s kind of a crazy undertaking, but I’m giving it a shot. So far, I’ve already written six new essays that I plan to edit and submit in December.

One of the things I love about NaNoWriMo is that you can be part of the fun without being locked into doing any particular thing. I’m using NaNo in the way that best suits my writerly needs right now. Some people use it to get a kickstart on an old project. Others only participate for part of the month. Many are writing memoirs, short story collections, or graphic novels. NaNoWriMo can be anything you want it to be.

For me, NaNo has always been about the motivation and, most importantly, the community. Going to write-ins, meeting like-minded creative types, and working toward a crazy shared goal is very encouraging and helps break up the solitary writer life I lead at least 30 days out of the year.

So, if you’ve heard rumblings about NaNoWriMo, or you’ve checked it out but got frightened away by the specifics or the word count, I still highly recommend being part of it. It’s not to late to join in. You can participate online and/or find local meetups in your area. No one will judge you for being a rebel—there’s even a whole forum on the website devoted to us.

To all of those participating in NaNoWriMo this year, best of luck hitting your 50K! I also want to extend a special thank you to the region of Los Angeles and our fantastic Municipal Liaisons who put together all of our events and many of the write-ins.

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? If so, what are you writing?

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Why Writers SHOULD Blog About Writing

I’ve finally zeroed in on my biggest problem when it comes to blog writing. For years now, I’ve been hearing that writers shouldn’t blog about writing.

There are way too many blogs about writing, they say. Plus, only writers will read them. You’re trying to reach readers.

First of all, if my only reason for blogging is to use it as a platform to find readers, I might as well not even try to maintain a blog. My desire to promote myself and my future books isn’t quite strong enough to make me compose weekly blog posts. Unless I have something I truly need to share with the world, I can’t force myself to write about it.

snoopy-typewriter

While there’s more to my life than writing, it’s the form of expression that I feel most passionately about. Writing is the art I have been practicing and studying for most of my life. I’ve been obsessed with writing one particular book – a memoir about dealing with mental illness as a child and teenager – since I was 12. That project alone consumes a great deal of my thoughts, time, and energy.

If I’m not allowed to talk about writing, I’m not allowed to talk about one of the most important aspects of my life.

However, the piece of advice I see just as often as “don’t blog about writing” is “blog about something that you care about.” Jeff Goins wrote a great post about this. When I ask myself what I care about, writing is the first thing that comes to mind. And I don’t only care about writing as a form of expression; I explore and express everything else I care about through writing. Whether it’s relationships, family, understanding mental illness, finding a place I belong – I process my world and experiences through writing about them. And that process is something I find endlessly compelling and fascinating.

Henceforth, I give myself permission to blog about writing. And to anyone else out there struggling to figure out what they should blog about is…you’re allowed to write about whatever the hell you want. If you’re a writer who cares passionately about writing, you should feel free to blog about it. What draws readers to blogs is quality content, and quality content can only be created about the things you really know and care about. For a lot of writers I know, that thing is writing.

So, don’t ever let any so-called “rules” of self-expression stop you, because that’s all those rules will ever do – stop you.

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Edward Gorey and Bedtime Stories

Seeing this funny photo of Edward Gorey today brought back memories of my childhood bedtime story experience. Many writers cite bedtime stories as being a catalyst for their future interest in writing and storytelling. I definitely count myself as being one of those writers, but my bedtime story experience was probably a little different than the typical bedtime story ritual.

My dad preferred making up bedtimes stories to reading them from books. They were always interactive, and usually featured alter egos of me and my little sister as the protagonists of the tale. These alter egos, Malana and Schmemily, went on many adventures over the years. They took spaceships to the moon and hung out with aliens. They were trapeze artists in the circus, befriending elephants and tigers. They went on voyages around over the world, often coming up against antagonists who made their journey difficult.

My dad didn’t really believe in reading cutesy books written specifically for children, so when he did read us books, they were usually pretty off-beat. He preferred the darker Roald Dahl novels like The Witches and The Vicar of Nibbleswicke. His favorite books to read us, though, were written by Edward Gorey. Many a night I fell asleep to the rhymes of The Wuggly Ump:

 

“Sing twiddle-ear, sing twaddle-or,
The Wuggly Ump is at the door…

How uninviting are its claws!
How even more so are its jaws!

Sing glogalimp, sing glugalump,
From deep inside the Wuggly Ump.”

(© Edward Gorey)

 

 

 

After my father read us these disturbing stories, my mother followed his act with a guided relaxation exercise where we took deep breaths and imagined we were at the beach. I guess that was to calm us down and keep us from having nightmares from our bedtime stories. It’s funny now to look back at how different their approaches to bedtime rituals were. While it was fun to listen to my dad’s made-up stories and hear him recite from the dark rhymes of Edward Gorey, it was probably also good to take a relaxing trip to the beach before falling asleep.

What was your childhood bedtime story ritual?

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